Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Sky Crawlers

In classic Oshii fashion, the basset hound is arguably the most vibrant, dynamic, and interesting character in this entire film. I dearly hope that one day, Oshii will decide to take a break from his usual fare and make an entire batshit movie centered on the awesome dog. When we see the basset hound, we know that it is clearly alive. The same cannot be said of the human characters. Going along with another Oshii trademark, there are often times when the characters seem to more closely resemble puppets spouting off Oshii's agenda than realistic approximations of people. Rarely do I see anyone speak in long, expository sentences approaching monologues. The dialog sounds like a resolution of Oshii's own thoughts and opinions (though the screenplay was apparently written by someone else). This is not necessarily bad. Oshii's films have never been very character-centric, but more thematically-centric. It's part of his signature stylistic imprint. At its best, (see Patlabor 2, Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh), the "Oshii style" prompts some profound contemplation when kept to moderation. At its worst (see Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence), the writing can get tedious, winded, and heavy-handed. Instead of giving viewers ample room to ponder things on their own, themes and messages are beaten over their hands as Oshii masturbates to philosophy. Showing and suggesting is more engaging than telling. Unfortunately in the Sky Crawlers, the writing tilts more towards the excessive, heavy-handed side. With the bullshittery not being engaging enough, the characters are nowhere near interesting enough to carry the show.

The art doesn't really help to make this thing any more interesting. The character designs are bland as hell. This reflects the fact that the characters themselves are living in a purgatory of sorts and are leading very pointless existences, but I can't help but feel that they could have been more distinct and still would have accomplished that aim. By the way, Kusanagi, the lead female character looks fucking scary, reminiscent of those pale sex dolls from Ghost in the Shell. Creepy eyes, man. Character animation was rather disappointing for a film, by the way. As for the score, it''ll remind you of Seirei no Moribito, if you've seen that before. Kenji Kawai utilizes many of the same instruments and sounds that he's used before. The music won't blow your mind and make you drool for the soundtrack, but it's pleasant and unobtrusive, if not entirely memorable. As a positive, the CG air combat sequences are awesome, and the planes look pretty sick. The backgrounds are definitely nice on the eyes, lots of sky, ocean, and green land. Again though, don't be expecting anything absolutely jaw-dropping. For orgasmic eye-candy, watch Innocence on Blu-Ray.

At this point, I may be sounding like an absolute hater of The Sky Crawlers, but really, I didn't hate it. Granted, I wouldn't have minded putting those two hours I spent watching this film towards something else, but I don't regret watching it. Oshii has some interesting things to say, especially regarding the concept of status quo, even if he gets his themes across in a tedious manner (I still do not get where the hell Justin Sevakis gets it that this movie is specifically directed at otaku tastes in Japan in his ANN Review). You also get a couple of those signature appreciable Oshii musical interludes. And honestly, the only truly cringeworthy moments are the instances when the characters converse exclusively in engrish during aerial combat. Overall, I'm just pretty indifferent and ambivalent to the whole experience. So, for now, I'll give a cautious, weak recommendation, but by no means should this be required viewing. Definitely not Oshii's best.


  1. Ha, looks like we were on total agreement on this one. Though I actually thought the in-cockpit English was fairly passable.

    One thing I didn't mention in the review is the intense sense of deja vu I had all through the movie... I was convinced I'd seen Yuichi and the female pilot who isn't Kusanagi somewhere before, but couldn't quite put my finger on it until I looked over at my shelf and saw this. ANN claims they don't share character designers, but I find that hard to believe.

  2. The overlap in our opinions and the fact that we basically posted at the same time is very uncanny...

    Noein and Sky Crawlers...hmmm. I can kinda see that, but Noein's character art is still stylistically quite different from that of Sky Crawlers. The Sky Crawler character designs are really simple, round and clean-cut, while Noein's are somewhat more messy and angular.

    On the topic of Noein itself, lots of storytelling shortcomings, but damn if it isn't gloriously gloriously impressive at times.

  3. Just saw it. I loved it.

    I do kind of wish there was a little more background and I'm not the biggest fan of cg mixed with hand drawn, but overall I like how it fucked with you.

    No hollywood ending here.